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Review by J.

Cecil Paper Title: Design of a Micro-Gripper and an Ultrasonic Manipulator for Handling Micron Sized Objects Authors: F. Beyeler, D. J. Bell, B. J. Nelson, Y. Sun, A. Neild

Discusses a MEMS (Microelectromechanical system) gripper and an Ultrasonic manipulator. The gripper forces were measured using an integrated force sensor. The fabrication process was discussed. Glass, polymer, cancer cells were manipulated.

The manipulation of the micro-scale objects are important applications in the biomedical and biological research. Similar importance for micro level applications are found in the areas like MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) and microelectronic devices. The use and the end effects of the miniature grippers become vital for these applications. MEMS technology allows us to fabricate such devices. Several gripper designs have been published in the recent years But most have them give no force feed back Some hybrid design were also developed using the theories of piezoelectricity and magnetism . The above designs proved to be complicated and expensive. This paper presents a novel design with electrostatic actuation and capacitive force sensing.

Figure showing the solid model of the micro gripper with dimensions.

Functioning of the gripper

The left arm of the gripper is pushed to the right side by the actuator (see fig) until the gripper is closed This is how the gripper picks up an object. This generates a gripping force that deflects the right arm This deflection is measured by the comb drive for force sensing on the right side (see fig) Deflection is proportional to the gripping force

Lateral comb drives are used to actuate the gripper The comb finger electrodes are considered as parallel plates The driving force f e for a single finger pair is given by f e = ( t V2/d)
Where is permittivity of air (8.85 x 10-12C2/(Nm2) V is driving voltage, d is dist bet plates t is thickness given by device layer of wafer

Detailed focus on the Theory

For a set of n capacitors, the total driving force is given by

the restoring force is created by 4 flexures and is

x is the deflection K is spring constant E is youngs modulus la is length of flexures

See fig The right arm transmits the gripping force to the movable capacitor plates of the transverse comb drive

The restoring force in the sensor (right arm) is created by 4 flexures and is given by
Where x is the deflection, k is the spring constant, E is the Youngs modulus, t is the wafer thickness, w is the width of the flexure, la is the length of the flexures and ls is the length of the flexures of the sensor.

Figure showing the Capacitive sensor with readout circuitry A balanced pair configuration of comb drive plates is used (see above fig) 1 and 3 are stationary 2 are movable plates A signal (Vout) is generated by the capacitive readout chip


For gap distance d1<<d2 the readout chip generates an analog voltage signal Vout proportional to the deflection x.

where A is the area of the plate Gain and CF are programmable on the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)


The sensitivity, resolution and the range of the sensing system can be varied by changing the flexure length. One of the important feature is that the force sensor can also be used to measure the adhesive or the van der Waal forces.


Micro-Gripper Fabrication

Figure showing the steps and the sequence of the fabrication process

Step A - The process uses an insulated silicon layer with a device layer of 50 m, a handle layer of 400 m and a buried SiO2 layer of 2 m. Step B Using reactive ion etching (RIE) a 1.5 m layer of SiO2 is deposited on the wafer backside and then patterned. Step C A 10 m thick layer of photo resist is patterned on the backside. Using DRIE (deep reactive ion etching) the backside silicon is etched. The 200 m, SiO2 patterned in the step B is removed and the remaining part is etched. Step D 250 nm of Aluminium is evaporated and patterned to create pads for wire bonding by etching the metal. Step E Heat conductive paste is used to glue the SOI wafer to a silicon support. The rest of the parts of the device are also etched using DRIE dry etching and the oxide plasma etch is used to remove the remaining 14 photo resist on top of the device.

Figure showing microscope image of the micro gripper fabricated with the described SOI process. The minimum feature size of the structures on device layer is 5m, which corresponds to an aspect ratio of 1: 10.

The gripper is wire bonded and glued as shown in the figure below.


The voltage ranges from 0 to 150 V for actuation. This creates a deflection of 25 m and is multiplied by a factor 4 to get the resultant deflection. ACCULAB VI 1mg was used to calibrate the force sensor. The analog output was converted into digital signal. The performance of the sensor is summarized in table-1



Experiment 1
Pick and Place manipulations in air using Glass spheres. Gripping forces of 380 N had been measured at a driving force of 140 V. Figure shows the picking and releasing gripping force profiles for a 35 m glass sphere.


Experiment 2
Ultrasonic device was used to preposition copolymer spheres with a diameter of 74 m. These particles were suspended in Ionized water. Through the glass layer of the ultrasonic device the spheres were viewed from the top


Figure showing the sequence followed in the experiment 2


a) spheres are suspended in water inside the channel. b) spheres are aligned using the ultra-sonic force field. After aligning the spheres the field is switched off. c) the micro-gripper moves inside the channel filled with water. A single sphere is gripped. d) the gripper moves back and the sphere is brought outside the channel. e) the sphere is released on a glass plate next to the ultrasonic device. f) the next sphere is gripped. g) the sphere is released on a glass plate. h) process is repeated.


Experiment 3
Same concept of experiment 2 was applied to biological cells. HeLa cancer cells of approximate diameter 20 m were used. Single cells have been successfully manipulated inside a fluid medium. Ultrasonic field was used to release the cells which adhere to the gripper arms.


Figure showing the sequence followed during the experiment.


a) HeLa cells are suspended in liquid. b) The cells are aligned in three lines inside the channel. The middle line can be used for picking up the cells with the gripper. c) A smaller field of view is used at the position at the end of the line highlighted by the white rectangle in b). The gripper is inserted into the fluid channel. d) A single cell is picked up. e) The cell is released at a different position using the 25 ultrasonic force field.

Gripper in Use


A system manipulator of micron sized particles of a MEMS gripper and a MEMS ultrasonic manipulator is designed. The gripper opens to a width of 100 m Real time force feed back is provided involving high sensitivity Glass and polymer spheres have been manipulated successfully. The concept was also successfully demonstrated with HeLa cells.